Mayor Finizio rescinds marijuana directive

New London - The New London state's attorney has said Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio does not have the authority to direct city police officers to look the other way if they witness marijuana use on private property.

State's Attorney Michael L. Regan said Wednesday that a section of a mayoral executive order, which instructs police not to pursue charges involving possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia if the violation occurs on private property and the landowner has not made a complaint or requested police assistance, violates state law.

Finizio, who issued the order Tuesday morning, said he will abide by the state's opinion and rescind that section of the order. But he said he believes he has the authority to allocate police resources where they are needed the most.

"I accept their ruling and I will not challenge their ruling," Finizio said Wednesday. "I still hold the belief that the mayor has the authority to allocate patrol strength according to budget, and if in the judgment of the mayor certain laws should be emphasized over others, (then) that's within my purview."

Regan called city attorney Jeffrey T. Londregan about the executive order after reading about it in the newspaper. Finizio then called Regan and asked him to take a look at the order, which was filed in City Hall Tuesday morning.

"That paragraph (section one of the order) would conflict with state statutes,'' Regan said Wednesday after sending Finizio a one-paragraph letter. "He (Finizio) called me, and without me asking he agreed to change it."

"The state is saying you can say, 'Don't pay attention to this and concentrate on that' as a matter of policy,'' Finizio said. "But you can't explicitly say don't issue a ticket.

"I don't think any of it was improper. But I do not think it is wise or prudent for the city to pursue this in court.''

The rest of the order, which protects officers from disciplinary action if they do not issue a ticket for marijuana use on private property, remains intact.

"It says that we trust the officer's judgment at the time,'' Finizio said.

The mayor said he ran the order by the law director and the police chief before filing it Tuesday morning in one of his first official acts as mayor. "We knew it might not hold up,'' he said. "The police chief was fine with it and the law director was fine with it."

Finizio said he will always abide by what a higher legal authority says, even if he disagrees. "But until a higher legal authority says so ... I will exercise my legal judgments,'' he said.

Tuesday morning Finizio also filed four other executive orders, saying he was following through on campaign promises.

Three of those orders state: No disciplinary action will be taken against city employees, except those in safety-related occupations, who test positive for marijuana during random drug testing; police cannot ask about a person's immigration status or take measures against a suspected illegal alien or refugee unless a possible violation of federal immigration law is being investigated; and police are prohibited from using profiling techniques to pull over potential criminals.

The fourth declares the first Sunday before Memorial Day as New London Neighbor Day. A celebration in front of City Hall is being planned for that day.

Some members of the City Council were surprised to read about the orders in the newspaper and felt they should have been given copies before the information was released to the public.

But Finizio said he had briefed the councilors that he was writing up the orders and said he did not receive any comments from them. He also said he did not receive any requests for advanced copies.

Finizio sent an apologetic email to the council and said in the future he would provide draft copies in advance.

No further orders are planned at this time, he said.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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